GameSided Game of the Year #15: Life Is Strange


Life Is Strange is a hella good game at #15 in our Game of the Year 2015 list.

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The biggest obstacle in creating a video game called Remember Me is making sure the game is, in any form, memorable. Unfortunately for Dontnod, that was arguably not the case, leaving the studio reeling in the middle of a complete corporate restructure and turning to public funding to complete their second (and then-possibly-final) project: Life Is Strange. Fortunately, life for the French developers turned out to be strange in a wonderful way, as their graphic adventure game of childhood friends bending, reversing and manipulating time to save their home of Arcadia Bay happened to truly resonate with a dedicated audience.

Taking place over the course of a week, Maxine Caulfield returns from Seattle to study at Blackwell Academy, renown for its infamous photography and arts programs. Things aren’t what they seem, however, as she learns she can control the very fabric of time after an unfortunate incident right at the start of the game. The power coursing inside her yields positive and negative results, one that is mostly used to navigate through the social ins and outs of high school life.

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Outside of a gratuitous use of the word “hella” established early on, Life Is Strange absolutely nails the artsy, pretentious lifestyle of suburban Oregon in a way that manages to remain authentic while not too overbearing. These are teens going through difficult challenges trying to fit in a very private art school. It doesn’t help that girls like Rachel Amber have mysteriously gone missing, or that the Prescotts run the town and are virtually unstoppable due to their bankrolling everyone in town.

Life Is Strange is a tale of two cities; Arcadia Bay the mundane and Arcadia Bay the supernatural. With a tornado set to destroy the city in a few day, it’s the clash between jumping back and forward in time in order to solve logic puzzles and using it to coerce, manipulate and befriend that sets up a moral dichotomy. Who is Max to play God like this? What does it say about her use of the power to make people like her better, or make them understand her way of life? At what point does being the hero mean acting with malice or villainy?

Life Is Strange puts a real human touch on a superhuman story by keeping it grounded, leading it to a Top 15 finish in our GameSided Game of the Year 2015 list.